Environmental news feed

  • Study warns of risk from feline viruses to wild cats on the palm oil frontier
    on May 26, 2022

    - A recently published study has found that wild felines are exposed to viruses common to domestic cats, such as feline coronavirus.- Certain species that frequent oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo, such as the leopard cat and Malay civet, may act as carriers of viruses back into forest areas.- These findings are of concern, conservationists say, due to the potential impact on threatened small cat species, such as the endangered flat-headed cat and the vulnerable Sunda clouded leopard.- Integration of animal welfare into conservation action and oil palm management plans are potential solutions to mitigate the risks of transmission, the study authors say.

  • Large-scale logging in Cambodia’s Prey Lang linked to politically-connected mining operation
    on May 26, 2022

    - Illegal logging appears to be taking place openly inside a swath of protected forest that authorities in Cambodia have only authorized for a feasibility study for limestone mining.- Locals and conservationists say the wood leaves the concession awarded to KP Cement in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary and is laundered through sawmills owned by Think Biotech.- It’s not clear why the Cambodian authorities would award a concession in the middle of one of the last remaining swaths of primary forest left in the country, or why they would give it to a company linked to a tycoon with a long history of environmentally destructive activities.- New data from Global Forest Watch show that 2021 was the worst year on record for deforestation in Prey Lang, with more than 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of primary forest lost in what appears to be a trend of increasing destruction.

  • Saving medicinal plants a village cause in Indonesia
    on May 26, 2022

    - Residents of the Sumatran village of Muara Jambi are working to preserve their ancient practice of cultivating and using medicinal plants.- The village is also home to an ancient Buddhist temple complex that may be linked to the medicinal plant tradition, but some fear government plans to restore the site could threaten the plants growing there.- Other threats come from oil palm plantations and coal mines operating nearby.

  • Nepal’s Supreme Court axes plans to build controversial new airport
    on May 26, 2022

    - Around 2.4 million trees, both big and small, had to be cut to construct the two-runway airport.- The decision forces the government to look elsewhere in the country for possible locations to build the second international aviation hub.

  • Seed banks catalog Brazil’s food past to safeguard its future
    on May 26, 2022

    - Brazilian agricultural research agency Embrapa has collected some 120,000 seeds from nearly 700 crop species over the course of 49 years, part of an effort to safeguard the country’s rich food diversity.- While many of the samples are stored in the network of 164 seed banks throughout Brazil, some have been sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Norwegian Arctic, including rice, beans, peppers and pumpkins, with native varieties of corn, passion fruit and cashew to follow.- A movement to recover traditional seeds, started by the Krahô Indigenous people together with Embrapa in the 1990s, has helped initiate exchanges of both seeds and knowledge all over the country.- Embrapa researchers say their partnership with Indigenous and traditional communities is essential to their efforts, since many seeds can’t be stored in vaults, and must be continuously cultivated in the fields.

  • Repeated fires are silencing the Amazon, says new acoustic monitoring study
    on May 26, 2022

    - Researchers recorded thousands of hours of sounds in areas that had been logged, burned once and burned multiple times along the “arc of deforestation” in the Brazilian Amazon.- In the forests with repeated fires, animal communication networks were quieter, with less diversity of sound than in logged forests or forests burned only once. This type of acoustic monitoring can be used as a cost-effective way to check the pulse of the forest.- The authors were surprised to find that insects, not birds, were the most obvious signal of forest degradation. Additionally, they found that amount of biomass in a forest doesn’t correlate with the level of biodiversity.- There’s a major difference in the biodiversity of a forest after one burn versus multiple burns, one author said, so protecting forests from repeated fires is still worthwhile.

  • Poor planning, persistent farming undermine mangrove restoration in Tanzania
    on May 25, 2022

    - Tanzania’s government has been working since the 1990s to replant mangroves in the Rufiji Delta, one of East Africa’s most significant mangrove sites.- New research indicates that efforts to restore degraded mangroves have been undermined by rice farming as well as by a lack of systematic planning and analysis of site and species suitability.- However, the research found that despite these flaws, replanted areas were regenerating faster than areas left to regrow on their own.

  • U.N., rights groups flag potential violations in $3b Indonesian tourism project
    on May 25, 2022

    - The U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has again raised concerns about alleged violations against local and Indigenous communities who are being moved for a tourism development project in Indonesia.- The Indonesian government envisions building a “New Bali” in the Mandalika region of the island of Lombok, including resorts, hotels and a racetrack, for which it is relocating 121 households.- Special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter says there are concerns around four issues: the conditions under which the community members are being moved; whether they’ve even consented to doing so; the amount of compensation the government is offering; and the conditions of their resettlement.- NGOs have called for the $3 billion Mandalika project’s main funder, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), to stop financing the project in light of these allegations of rights violations.

  • For wildlife on Brazil’s highways, roadkill is just the tip of the iceberg
    on May 25, 2022

    - More than 400 million wild vertebrates are estimated to be run over on Brazil’s highways every year, but roadkill is only one of the impacts from building roads through biodiverse areas.- Road construction also entails deforestation, as well as chemical, noise and light pollution, and the introduction of invasive species — all of which pose threats to native species.- To minimize the impacts, experts call for better planning in building new roads, such as viaducts for the passage of wildlife, acoustic barriers, and changes in the composition of the asphalt to reduce noise.

  • Meet the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners
    on May 25, 2022

    - This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors one grassroots activist from each of the six inhabited continents.- The 2021 prize winners are Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez from Ecuador; Chima Williams from Nigeria; Julien Vincent from Australia; Marjan Minnesma from the Netherlands; Nalleli Cobo from the United States; and Niwat Roykaew from Thailand

  • Sri Lankan wins Linnean Medal, the ‘Nobel Prize for naturalists’ (commentary)
    on May 24, 2022

    - Today the Linnean Medal was awarded at a London ceremony to the first Sri Lankan in its history: since 1888, the medal has been given annually to a botanist or a zoologist, or to one of each, in the same year.- The list of winning scientists–from Alfred Wallace to Stephen Jay Gould–is long, yet the 2022 honoree in the zoology section is not a scientist in the formal sense, but rather a Sri Lankan author, educator and taxonomist, Rohan Pethiyagoda, who formerly served as deputy chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.- “His impact on biodiversity research in Sri Lanka and beyond through his output and catalytic influence cannot be overestimated,” the award committee wrote, and the author of this commentary explains why this is so.- This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

  • Caribbean incursion into Amazon sparked a flurry of life, with lessons for the future
    on May 24, 2022

    - The vast wetland that used to sit in the heart of where the Amazon lies today received a more recent pulse of seawater than previously thought, a new study confirms — a phenomenon that contributed to the region’s species richness, including its iconic river dolphins.- The study also says the likeliest source of these marine incursions, some 23 million to 8.8 million years ago, was the Caribbean Sea, with the water surging inland down what is today the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela.- Researchers say investigating the distant past of the Amazon can yield clues about its near future, given that the late Miocene was a period of global warming, with temperatures far higher than the 2°C (3.6°F) rise that the Paris Agreement is trying to prevent.- But the current rate of global warming is taking place on an exponentially shorter time scale, and combined with record rates of fires and deforestation, it gives animal and plant species no time to adapt, scientists say.

  • Tale of two pandemics as mining thrived while communities faced restrictions
    on May 24, 2022

    - The power imbalance between mining companies and communities in Latin America deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published May 24.- The report details how the pandemic presented companies with a window of opportunity to continue or even ramp up their activities, while communities opposed to mining projects faced pandemic restrictions and violence.- Indigenous Mapuche-Tehuelche community leaders from Argentina traveled to Guatemala in May to meet with Indigenous Xinka communities affected by the same mining company.

  • Efforts bloom to save southern Brazil’s last butiá palm groves
    on May 24, 2022

    - Targeted by the expansion of agriculture and urbanization, the last butiá palm landscapes continue to cling to life in Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.- Of the 21 known butiá species in South America, 19 occur in Brazil — all of them under threat.- An experimental project proposes a rotating cattle management method in butiá areas as a way to protect the shoots of the young palms from being eaten.- Other efforts to protect the trees include creating a tourism circuit linking butiá groves in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and publishing a book of butiá fruit recipes.

  • In Sierra Leone, local fishers and foreign trawlers battle for their catch
    on May 24, 2022

    - At wharfs across the Freetown peninsula in Sierra Leone, local fishers say in recent years it’s become harder to get a good catch. They blame foreign trawlers for overexploiting the country’s fish stocks.- Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says it has systems meant to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but enforcement remains a challenge.- In 2019, China signed a fisheries agreement with Sierra Leone that includes a promise to build a $55 million harbor, but some fishers say boats owned by its citizens are among the worst offenders.

  • For reef mantas, Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is a ray of hope
    on May 24, 2022

    - A new study has found that Komodo National Park in Indonesia has an aggregation of 1,085 reef manta rays, currently classified as a vulnerable species.- Experts say that locations such as Komodo will play an important role in safeguarding the species from extinction.- Manta rays are under pressure from fishing activity, including targeted fishing and bycatch.- However, experts say the species is also impacted by tourism and the changing dynamics of the ocean.

  • In the Mekong’s murky depths, giants abound, new expedition finds
    on May 24, 2022

    - An underwater expedition into the deepest pools in the Mekong River has confirmed the presence of giant freshwater fish, fish migration routes, and high volumes of discarded fishing gear and plastic waste.- The international team of underwater explorers, local fish biologists and fishermen used deep-sea camera technology to document the ecological value of the unique area in northeastern Cambodia, which is characterized by 80-meter-deep (260-foot) pools, flooded forests and braided river channels.- But just as researchers reveal the value of its biodiversity, food security and fisheries livelihoods, the area faces a new threat: earlier this year, feasibility surveys began for a hydropower dam planned for directly upstream of the deep-pool habitats.- According to the expedition team, construction of the Stung Treng dam would have “devastating ecological effects and could seriously threaten local food security in an area of the world already impacted by changing climate.”

  • Tiger-centric conservation efforts push other predators to the fringes
    on May 24, 2022

    - Nepal and India have made huge strides in boosting their tiger populations over the past decade, but these conservation actions may have come at the expense of other predators, research shows.- In Nepal, species such as leopards and sloth bears have been pushed to the fringes of conservation areas that have been optimized for tigers, leading to increased human-wildlife conflict.- The current approach of burning tall grasses and rooting out tree shoots to give deer and antelope fresh grass, and tigers fresh prey, isn’t even working in the tigers’ favor, one study shows.- Conservationists say there needs to be a habitat management approach that accommodates a wider range of both prey and predator species.

  • 200 mysterious sea turtle deaths: Q&A with Kenyan fisherman and turtle rescuer Daniel Katana
    on May 23, 2022

    - Near the town of Marereni, smack in the middle of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline, a group of local volunteers has been protecting sea turtles and planting mangroves for nearly two decades.- In the past two years, however, the Marereni Biodiversity Conservancy has documented alarming spikes in sea turtle deaths and in turtles with fibropapilloma tumors, as well as a decline in sea turtle nests.- While the causes have yet to be determined, conservancy members suspect the sea turtles’ problems may be associated with pollution from nearby salt mines.- Mongabay interviewed the group’s CEO, Daniel Masha Katana, about how it is responding to the current threats to sea turtles.

  • Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ 60 years on: Birds still fading from the skies
    on May 23, 2022

    - Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” catalyzed the modern environmental movement and sparked a ban on DDT in the U.S. and most other nations, though DDT has since been replaced by a growing number of other harmful biocides.- Now, 60 years later, birds may face more threats than any other animal group because they live in — or migrate through — every habitat on Earth. Birds are impacted by land-use changes, pollution (ranging from pesticides to plastics), climate change, invasive species, diseases, hunting, the wildlife trade, and more.- The 2022 update to the “State of the World’s Birds” report notes winners and losers amid increasing human alteration of the planet, but documents a continuing downward trend.